NORTH CAROLINA: Protesters Denounce Rapist Chef, Political Opportunist Garrett Tallent

Photo: Protesters hold a banner reading, “Garrett Tallent is a rapist and abuser”

By Laura Byron with contributions from Maria Perez

On March 11, protesters entered Azalea Bistro in Saluda, North Carolina to denounce its founder and former head chef, Garrett Peter Tallent. On March 3, Tallent was arrested for raping one of his female employees on charges that include second degree kidnapping, assault by strangulation, assault on a female, three counts of forcible sex offense, and second degree forcible rape.

The protesters entered Azalea Bistro twenty minutes before closing on Wednesday night, chanting, “Run this rapist out of town, Azalea Bistro must shut down!” A woman activist read a speech condemning Tallent over a megaphone, while a banner held in front of her read, “Garrett Tallent: Rapist and Abuser.” Tallent was also the founder of the now-defunct Charlotte Revolutionary Collective, which activists involved in the action recognize as his failed opportunist and revisionist project.

Garrett Tallent following his arrest

In video provided to Incendiary, Emma Tallent, Garrett’s wife, can be heard trying to loudly talk over and mock the protesters as the speaker on the megaphone describes Tallent’s sexual assault of his employee. The speaker pointed out that the restaurant profited a violent rapist, and appealed for solidarity from the employees. Soon after this, music was raised to a loud volume in the kitchen, and a high-pitched alarm was set off.

Tallent was officially removed as head chef last week after his arrest, but his family still owns the restaurant and maintains his innocence. Tallent was not present in the restaurant at the time of the protest and is currently free on bond.

According to the Mecklenburg County arrest warrants, Tallent assaulted his victim “by grabbing her face and forcibly kissing her, as well as holding her down on a bed, and biting her upon the breast,” and “placing his hands around her neck” causing “swelling and pain to her neck” in addition to the rape. Details on the kidnapping charge are still forthcoming.

A source once close with Tallent told Incendiary that the victim had been hired to work a one-time Super Bowl event that he was catering through his company, Bon Vivant Culinary. Following the event, the employees spent time at a local bar, where Tallent paid for drinks. Tallent had everyone stay in two hotel rooms against the victim’s wishes, where he eventually raped her.

When confronted on Wednesday night, Emma Tallent defended her husband, telling protesters, “He did not do this,” and absurdly added that he, “is a communist and feminist.” Other business associates have reportedly disassociated completely with the restaurant, outraged by Tallent’s crimes.

Shortly after Azalea Bistro opened in April 2019, a regional lifestyle magazine, Bold Life, published an article praising the restaurant and Tallent as its head chef. They removed the article from their website this week after a community member informed the publication of Tallent’s arrest, with the managing editor, Melanie Bianchi, responding:

Garrett Tallent

“This is disgusting behavior. Garrett Tallent was quite aggressive throughout the process of publishing the article, and was very upset about not being on the cover. He seemed unhinged at best; it’s very disturbing to find out he is in fact a monster (if he is proved guilty of these crimes).”

While Tallent claimed that Bon Vivant Culinary was a “co-op,” the business was run like any other petty proprietorship. Cooperatives themselves are not revolutionary, but claiming a collective character for what is nothing more than another small business is representative of Tallent’s opportunism.

Tallent’s political opportunism is most clearly embodied in his founding role of the Charlotte Revolutionary Collective (CRC). Originally named People’s Revolutionary United Collective (PRUC), the project was initiated after supporters of the Maoist movement caught him lying about felonies and fabricating an arrest history in a desperate bid for credibility. The investigations into his claims were spurred by his attempts to incite organizers to undertake reckless actions.

Tallent claimed to local organizers that he had been arrested numerous times protesting in various cities, including a felonious “Inciting a Riot” charge during the popular rebellion in Charlotte which followed Keith Lamont Scott’s murder by police in September 2016. When there was no public record of such an arrest, nor arrests he claimed in Baltimore, Tallent was questioned on the discrepancy.

Unable to provide clear answers, Tallent launched into attempts to wreck local revolutionary organizing and held the first meeting of what would become CRC. CRC’s formation was based in spreading an “anti-authoritarian” political line as a means to attack Maoism, relying on opportunist ideas such as ultra-democracy and ‘left unity’ (which seeks to flatten legitimate political differences). At times, Tallent has described himself as an ‘anarcho-communist’ and more recently as a socialist.

Regarding Tallent’s lies about arrests, one former member of CRC told Incendiary that local revolutionaries were, “correct in being firm on security and Garrett being a liability. Clearly [they were] proven right.”

“We asked him for proof he had been arrested and he sent a picture of a letter from his lawyer with a bunch of information redacted,” the former member added, “It didn’t show charges or anything other than services were rendered for around the date he said he was arrested. It wasn’t really good proof of anything other than he had a lawyer.”

Throughout CRC’s history, they prioritized social media presence over mass work and organizing. In December 2019, a dissolution statement was posted to CRC’s WordPress page, but this was not confirmed by their Facebook. On March 5, following the revelation of his arrest, the former member in control of the CRC Facebook account confirmed the previous dissolution by posting the following reflective and self-critical statement, which Incendiary publishes in part:

“In the past few days, we were made aware that Garrett Tallent, one of the founders of PRUC/CRC, was arrested for raping and strangling a drunk female employee that was hired to bartend Super Bowl Sunday event that he was catering with his restaurant.

CRC has been defunct for a couple months now and was a failed project because it was founded in opposition to the Red Guards Charlotte for opportunistic reasons – namely, that Garrett was trying to escape accountability from real revolutionaries for lying and boasting about getting arrested at protests.

[…]

Many of the other rumours about these revolutionaries that CRC helped propel are also largely fabricated, exaggerated, or based on a lack of political understanding. I hope everyone who ever found themselves on the same side as Garrett takes a good hard look at their politics and does some investigation and self-crit.”

The confrontation at Azalea Bistro expresses the outrage of women and revolutionaries at Tallent’s crimes, and the acknowledgement that justice for his victim will not be found in the bourgeois justice system, especially while he is currently still out in the community. As revolutionaries in Charlotte have maintained and more of Tallent’s former allies have come to realize, he has built himself up on anti-masses ideas, expressed in his political opportunism and revisionism, and disgustingly enacted in his anti-woman, anti-people crimes.